Tories blast Cable on Powell remark

Banbury Cake: The UK will be able to absorb the expected influx of migrants next year, the centre-left think tank Institute for Public Policy Research said The UK will be able to absorb the expected influx of migrants next year, the centre-left think tank Institute for Public Policy Research said

Business Secretary Vince Cable faced a Conservative backlash today after he compared the party to Enoch Powell and his controversial "rivers of blood" speech.

Conservative MPs criticised the Liberal Democrat minister for being out of touch, with one suggesting he should resign from the Government, while another claimed he was duplicitous.

Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills criticised the Liberal Democrat minister for "effectively" comparing his coalition partners to the Tory right-winger and his controversial speech on immigration.

The latest coalition division over immigration comes after a report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said the Government should be preparing for the impact Bulgarian and Romanian migrants will have on schools and housing instead of alarming the public and announcing "symbolic gestures".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Mills, who is a member of the Immigration Bill Committee, said: "This is unacceptable."

He said Mr Cable's comments had made it "very hard to sit around the Cabinet table".

Asked whether he thought Mr Cable should be made to leave the Cabinet , Mr Mills said: "That's a decision above my pay grade, but it's a particularly strange way to work with partners.

"I think Mr Cable has always had a rather creative interpretation of what collective responsibility ought to look like.

"These comments - coming on the back of, I would say, some completely sensible policy announcements by the Prime Minister to restrict welfare to people who are newly arrived here, can't claim until they've paid in - I mean it just looks completely out of touch with the sentiments of most British people.

"I thought Mr Cable should have gone over his ridiculous remarks a couple of years ago, so I'm not going to change my mind now."

He added that comparing his Tory colleagues to Mr Powell was "a ridiculous thing to have done".

On Twitter, Conservative backbencher Philip Davies wrote: "Cable is appalled by his Govt but he is v happy to keep taking his fat cabinet salary (sic). I have nothing but contempt for him and his duplicity."

He added: "If he feels so strongly he should do the decent thing and resign."

Mr Cable incensed the Conservatives for suggesting the party's immigration rhetoric was based on a culture of panic and populism.

He told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show yesterday: "There is a bigger picture here. We periodically get these immigration panics in the UK.

"I remember going back to Enoch Powell and 'rivers of blood' and all that. If you go back a century, it was panics over Jewish immigrants coming from eastern Europe.

"The responsibility of politicians in this situation when people are getting anxious is to try to reassure them and give the facts, not panic and resort to populist measures that do harm."

This is not the first time Mr Cable has voiced concern over the Conservatives' immigration policy.

In April 2011, distancing himself from their plans to reduce net migration to tens of thousands rather than hundreds of thousands, Mr Cable said it was "not part of the Coalition Agreement".

"It is Tory Party policy only. I do understand there is an election coming, but talk of mass immigration risks inflaming the extremism to which he (David Cameron) and I are both strongly opposed."

The new IPPR report said the UK will be able to absorb the expected influx of migrants next year if ministers adopt contingency measures to deal with pressures in local areas.

The centre-left think-tank suggested that helping local authorities deal with a possible increase in demand on schools, housing stock and policing would be more helpful than last-minute immigration "gestures", such as tightening benefit restrictions or increasing border presence.

The IPPR said other EU countries are also lifting restrictions on the movement of Bulgarians and Romanians on January 1, so the UK will not necessarily be the first choice for migrants, and many Romanians and Bulgarians who wish to come might already be here, since citizens of both countries have been able to live and work here since 2007.

Conservative chairman Grant Shapps told the Evening Standard: "Vince Cable's a bit like an old uncle at Christmas - slightly rude, does not always make sense, but he is part of the extended family so you live with it."

Labour immigration spokesman David Hanson said: "The Government are hopelessly split and increasingly acrimonious on their approach to the end of transitional controls for Bulgaria and Romania.

"Rather than come up with practical measures in a calm and measured way, they have descended into name-calling and panic. Once again the rhetoric fails to match the reality with this Government on immigration.

"The Government should be dealing with the real issues of concern including the impact of low-skilled migration on the labour market. There must be effective enforcement of the minimum wage, gang-master legislation must be extended to new areas, and recruitment agencies should be prevented from recruiting only from abroad. So far the Government have refused to take action in any of these areas."

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